You know it’s meant to be when the whole animal kingdom approves of your wedding. At Liz Kulze and Thomas Winstanley’s celebration last May, two eagles joined the rehearsal dinner from a branch across the river, a peacock and some cows supervised wedding day set up, and an alligator swam up to hear their vows firsthand.
No, they didn’t tie the knot at a zoo; they wed at Plum Hill, a property in Yemassee, South Carolina, that has been in Liz’s family for decades (and was featured in the film Forrest Gump). “I like to think that the land itself had a hand in raising me,” says Liz. Throw in the fact that her parents wed there some 33 years prior, and it was always going to be Plum Hill. “To get married elsewhere would have felt like a betrayal,” Liz says.
As for the couple’s romance, that began five years ago in Brooklyn. One night over dinner, two of Liz’s friends spontaneously (and serendipitously) made her an online dating profile, and Thomas was the first—and only—date that stemmed from it. “After a few months, it was hard to imagine our lives without each other,” Liz says. Three years later came an engagement at Thomas’ folks’ Provincetown, Massachusetts, home. “We went for a walk on the beach, had a long, teary chat, and came back to our parents who were waiting with champagne,” she remembers.
That same down-to-earth, family-first approach characterized the couple’s Big Day. Liz tackled most of the design herself, enlisting Ooh! Events for logistics, rentals, and coordination. “I remember how truly authentic this event was to their lives,” says Lisa Thomas of Ooh! Liz’s mother, a health and wellness guru, helped devise a delicious reception menu featuring rice grown at Plum Hill by Liz’s sister. Her dad handpicked local craft beer and wine while Thomas mapped out the Bloody Mary bar, which was stocked with pickled vegetables, bacon, shrimp, and hot sauce. A final tailored touch? Following the ceremony (which was held at noon to help ward off mosquitoes), a record player belted out albums from the couple’s own collection.
Perhaps the most memorable part of the day, however, was unplanned. After dining, Liz’s sister whipped out a massive tarp, a bottle of laundry detergent, and a hose, creating an impromptu homemade water slide. Uncles stripped to their boxers, the wedding party hit the slick stretch in their Big Day best, and even Liz’s mom took a spin. “At the end of the day,” says Liz, “we celebrated not only our marriage, but also our families and Plum Hill, a place that means so much to us.”